Puslapio vaizdai

Chapter II.


In order to show how the existing political conditions of things came about in this Republic, a brief page of history not altogether unfamiliar to the general reader must be turned over.

The island, whose original name was Haiti, signifying a mountainous country, was the sixth point of land discovered in 1492 by Columbus during his first voyage in the New World, and was named by him Hispaniola. If an average of the estimates made by historians be taken, it may be stated that he found it peopled by about 1,000,000 aborigines. Of them and the island, he wrote to his sovereigns of Spain: "I swear to your Majesties that there is not in the world a better land or a better people." Here was founded the first Spanish colony in the New World.

The early discovery of gold soon brought great numbers of greedy adventurers, who forced the aborigines to till the fertile fields and especially to toil in the mines and the streams where the precious metal was at first found in moderate abundance. The relentless colonists drove them on with pitiless rigor, in spite of protest, revolt, and resistance, until wealth poured into the laps of the rulers and ran in golden streams to the Spanish throne. Cities and villages sprang up and flourished; magnificence and splendor were the order of the day in Hispaniola. Spaniards loved to compare it all with the splendors of Andalusia, and the colony became the commercial emporium of the New World.

Meantime, it was found that under the cruel exactions, the aborigines were rapidly declining in numbers. Indeed, so speed

ily did they decline that, according to one estimate, of the 1,000,000 whom Columbus found there at the end of 1492, not more than 60,000 were left at the expiration of fifteen years from the time when he first cast anchor in the peaceful waters of the Môle St. Nicolas, and within twenty-two years from that date, that is, in 1514, the numbers had, some authorities assert, gone down to less than 14,000; so that it would appear that a peaceful population of one million souls practically passed out of existence in their own country under foreign oppression within twenty-five years. Even assuming the original estimate to have been greatly exaggerated, the reduction in numbers must have been fearfully rapid, and the destruction was so complete that not a trace of the Indian blood is found in the island to-day.

At first, to keep up the supply of labor, the natives of the surrounding islands were decoyed from their homes and reduced to slavery in Hispaniola, but this did not suffice, and as early as 1502, Africans were purchased from the Portuguese for servitude in the colony. And this was the date of the introduction of African slavery and the origin of the presence of the of the negro in America.

The beginning of this slavery was due to the Portuguese, and a sale mart was established at Lisbon, where, in the "fifteen thirties," thousands of Africans were sold annually. The Dutch were also mixed up in the traffic. The African did not die out under hardships as the Indian did, and for a time, with the forced labor of the former and of the remnants of the latter, the splendors of the colony were maintained and pushed forward, but the yield of the gold fields began to diminish rapidly, and then the colonists commenced to rush off en masse to the newly discovered mines in Mexico and Peru, taking with them. in instances their African slaves, thus planting negro slavery on the American continent. Then it was that the colony entered upon a period of decline and decay from which it never recovered. The only indications that one sees to-day in Santo


Domingo of the splendors of the first Spanish occupation are the ruins here and there of what must have been truly magnificent edifices, notably of the monastery at the Dominican capital, which are grand and imposing almost beyond description, but the Spaniard left behind him the impress of his language and his form of religion, and one sees now in a majority of the population unmistakable evidences of Spanish origin.

The French occupation of the western part of the island came about in this way: The policy of the Spaniards led them to keep up a strict police of the Antillean seas and to claim everything there as theirs; so, when war had been declared between France and Spain, about 1520, and Henry VIII had turned against his former ally, the Emperor Charles V, England and France began, in the interests of their own commerce, to connive at and encourage the fitting out of privateersmen to make reprisals on the Spanish in those waters. By a mere coincidence, the privateersmen selected different parts of the same island of St. Christopher as the base of their operations. Spain, in due season, sent out forces against them, destroyed their rendezvous, and drove them away. Those who escaped, especially the French, gathered on the island of Tortuga (Ile de la Tortue), on the northern coast of Haiti. This occurred about 1530, and was the beginning of the French occupation of the island. The colonists at La Tortue, though attacked again and again by the Spaniards, succeeded in maintaining themselves and largely increasing their numbers there, and at length, began to spread over on the mainland, pushing little by little into the interior, establishing settlements, cultivating the fertile fields, and importing whole cargoes of African slaves, to the number, finally, of many thousands annually. Governors were sent out to the colony from time to time, and its material growth and prosperity went on until it became phenomenal among the most favored places in the world.

It must be noticed that all this while, Spain had never relinquished an iota of her claim to the whole island, and that, from time to time, according to the condition of things among the nations of Europe, in their relations to one another, she made determined efforts to assert that claim by the sword. Still, the French held their own until they spread all over the western part, and when Louis XIV concluded the treaty of Ryswick with the allied powers, in 1697, he secured to the French Crown all that part of the island actually occupied by his subjects. From this treaty, therefore, dates the recognized authority of the French in Haiti.

Perhaps it may be well to note here, parenthetically, that in 1795, Spain, by the treaty of Bâle, ceded the whole island to France, but the eastern part went back again to the Spanish Crown after the downfall of Napoleon and the restoration of the Bourbons. In 1822, the Spanish portion placed itself under, and was absorbed by, Haitian sovereignty, but it resumed its autonomy after the revolution of 1843, and thereafter, on the ground that it was an object of conquest by Haiti, it went voluntarily in 1861 again under the Spanish Crown. In 1863, it revolted against Spanish domination, and in 1865, Spain formally gave up her attempt to subdue it; so that, since 1865, Santo Domingo has been continuously an independent republic. In this connection, also, it ought to be stated that the laws of the Dominican Republic are extremely liberal toward foreigners, and that American capital, to the amount of at least $4,000,000, is already invested there, the entire foreign capital so invested running up to more than $13,000,000.

The treaty of Ryswick did not accurately define the boundaries. between the Spanish portion and the French. This was not done until 1770, when a zigzag line was run from Fort Dauphin and Mancenillo Bay on the north to Anses-à-Pitres on the south so as to give to the French about one-third of the island, and that onethird constitutes to-day the Republic of Haiti.

Bull. 62- -2

At the time of the conclusion of the treaty of the boundaries, as that of 1776 is called, France was at peace on all the seas of the world, but shortly thereafter, war broke out between her and England, and it is within the knowledge of every patriotic American that in 1778, France and the American colonies entered into a treaty by which they agreed to render mutual assistance against England. In the following year, Count d'Estaing was ordered to recruit a force in the French Antillean colonies to coöperate with the Americans who were then engaged in the fierce struggle for independence. In this way, it came about that 800 Haitian volunteers, all blacks and mulattoes, took part in the siege of Savannah and in all that the Count d'Estaing did thereabout, and to that extent, the United States were aided by the valor and the blood of the Afro-Haitians to achieve their independence.

In the same way, too, nearly thirty years later, Haiti lent to Simon Bolivar material aid which turned the scales in favor of the freedom and independence of what are now Venezuela and Colombia. When the French Revolution burst like a tornado on the world, it found the elements in Haiti quite ripe for a similar outburst. There were 30,000 whites steeped in luxury and politically divided into hopelessly irreconcilable factions, but all of one accord in the purpose to maintain the status quo of the blacks and mulattoes; about 30,000 mulattoes, many of them rich and educated, and all free,* but smarting under the most galling and humiliating social, industrial, and legal discriminations against them, and back of both these two classes, nearly 500,000 black slaves, sullen, silent, groaning under a cruel form of bondage and yearning for almost any change whatever.

When, therefore, in 1789, news of the decrees of the National Assembly at Versailles, reached Haiti, the whole colony was speedily thrown into excitement, turmoil, and finally anarchy, which, in

"The free men of color in the French colonies, though released from the dominion of individuals, were considered the property of the public." Bryan Edwards, Vol Iv, page 10.

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